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Posts tagged: FSA

USDA CREP Buffers Clean Water and Help Restore Chesapeake Bay

An animal standing in a field

With a buffer zone in place, water quality has improved.

At the English farm in York County, Pennsylvania, you’ll find a comfortable streamside setting that includes a babbling brook, clear water, singing birds, and a thriving young stand of trees — all nestled in a productive cropland setting.  However, this wasn’t always the case.  Don English, the son of the owner of the farm, recalls, “Until we planted these four acres into a buffer by enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), this creek ran brown with sediment after every rain.  Within a year the water cleared up and now we’re seeing the aquatic life return.” This creek runs into the Deer Creek, which in turn runs into the Chesapeake Bay.  The buffer is a part of a larger USDA effort to improve water quality and help restore the Bay. Read more »

New York State of Mind: Empowering Women and Creating Local Food Opportunities

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (standing in the middle) joined USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (standing in the middle) joined USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture and Local Foods at the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

The future of agriculture depends on the next generation of farmers and ranchers.  That’s why the Department of Agriculture is committed to creating more opportunities for new and beginning farmers and removing barriers for women and minority farmers.

To advance these priorities, I traveled to Syracuse, N.Y., last week, where I was joined by my USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture and Local Foods at the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Center in Syracuse, N.Y.  The discussion focused on the big picture of how a thriving local food system can help women succeed as farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs.  We had a vibrant conversation that ranged from sharing ideas to creating valuable connections and networks to mapping out strategies for further progress. Read more »

Washington Woman Inspired to Grow Out on Her Own

Elsa Torres with her father

Elsa Torres’ father, Jose, inspired her to buy an orchard and farm on her own.

For Elsa Torres, farming is more than just a job or a livelihood. It’s an inspiration.

Ever since she was a young girl, Elsa can remember working in orchard fields with her father, Jose Torres. It was something she loved and cherished. “My father is the person I admire the most,” said Elsa. “He came from Mexico with nothing and for 25 years he worked on an orchard that he now owns. He didn’t start out with a formal education.  But now he’s a business owner.  He’s an example of the American dream and how someone who works hard can become a success.” Read more »

Minnesota Farmer Commits a Century of Life to Agriculture, Dedicating Three Decades to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrating Art Hulberg's 100th birthday

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrates Art Hulberg's 100th Birthday and his 30 year commitment to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Photo courtesy of Deb Mercier, News Editor, Pope County Tribune

When Minnesota farmer and conservationist Arthur “Art” Hulberg celebrated his 100th birthday this month, he also marked the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)–a program in which Hulberg has participated since its inception.  Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini traveled to Benson, Minnesota, to offer birthday wishes and hand deliver a personal letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Hulberg and his brother Clifford farmed nearly 200 acres in Pope County, Minnesota.  When CRP began, the Hulbergs eventually enrolled 188 acres in the program.  When Clifford passed away in 1989, Art took over as full owner of the property and to this day works with USDA staff to manage his CRP acres.  For example, when the Walk-In-Access (WIA) program began, Hulberg immediately enrolled to allow for hunting on his CRP acreage.  WIA is supported by a grant through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access Program that assists with public access to CRP for wildlife-dependent recreation.  Hulberg also has helped fellow farmers and livestock producers in his community by allowing them to use his CRP acres for managed haying practices. Read more »

USDA Agencies Lead Local Food Discussion in Omaha

USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives

A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.

I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.  USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC).  They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table. 

With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems.  I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems.  Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »

Listening and Learning From Local Food Stakeholders in New Mexico

AMS Local Food Research & Development Director Ken Keck (far right), AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (middle), and Rio Arriba County Agricultural Extension Agent Donald Martinez, Jr., (middle in the back with red shirt), check out the 'Tequila' sweet pepper

AMS Local Food Research and Development Director Ken Keck (far right), AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (middle), and Rio Arriba County Agricultural Extension Agent Donald Martinez, Jr., (middle in the back with red shirt), check out the 'Tequila' sweet pepper picked from the fields at Danny Farrar’s (far left) Rancho La Jolla in Velarde, NM. USDA photo courtesy of Peter Wood.

As part of National Farmers Market Week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne L. Alonzo and I traveled to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. The bustling Santa Fe Farmers Market was the perfect place to kick off the week! While there, we also traveled to the beautiful countryside and met with key local food stakeholders during a special session and visits to local farms.  

The round table forum and farm visits allowed farmers, ranchers, and local food organizations to share their experiences. We heard from Danny Farrar, who owns Rancho La Jolla in Velarde and is also a member of the Farm to School Board of Directors. He told us that many of the northern New Mexico farmers who sell at farmers markets are growing fruits and vegetables on small family farms of just 3 to 5 acres and on land passed down through generations. He told us that keeping his land as a working farm is as important to his culture and heritage as it is to its profitability. Read more »